If one word could sum up a play that word would be ‘dated’. When the play was conceived the thought of a well-positioned clergyman fearing the scandal of being exposed for gambling, may have been relevant. Today’s audiences with their regular fill of gossip from the red-tops obviously find it hard to relate. The play itself also lacked both the witty word play or the fast pace of modern comedies, so the overall impression was one of blandness.
The lacklustre play seemed to have also worked it’s spell on the cast as very few moments raised the audience from their semi-comatose state. Patricia Hodge as the dean’s horsey sister at least seemed to be making an effort, but it was a very heavy load for this filly to carry. Nicholas Le Provost as the dean seemed to have pitched his character somewhere between Alistair Sim and Basil Fawltey, unfortunately he fell between two stools having neither the subtle mastery of Sim nor the manic buffoonery of Cleese.
The dean’ daughter’s had the audience struggling to hear the dialogue, I fear this was through an inability to project rather than embarrassment at the feeble lines they were given. The two military gentlemen were summed up by a line in the play – “Here come the waxworks”.
It was left to the bit part players to rescue anything from the feeble play. Rachel Lumberg as the policeman’s wife stole the show managing to wring the occasional laugh out of the limited script. The policeman and the butler played their roles as over-the-top caricatures but in their small roles it seemed to work.
To carry on the horse racing analogy of the play a little further, this was a real plodder and my money would not be on it having a reasonable run in the West End. - Geoff Dagger
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